Joyce L. Arnold: Liberal, lesbian, Independent, equality activist, writer
This latest in the Two Parties, Too Few Choices series begins with the term used by Citigroup, back in 2005, to describe what they called “income and wealth inequality” – plutonomy.
But before looking at that, this provides some current context: From TPM:
President Obama tiptoed around a question on the Occupy Wall Street protests at his White House press conference on Thursday, telling reporters that he understood their ‘frustration’ without explicitly supporting or distancing himself from the movement.
As politicians and Electeds love to say, “Let me be clear” – things are well beyond “frustration.”
Now about Citigroup’s “plutonomy” – whatever terms you use to describe our economic and political realities, the bottom line is this: a tiny group of super wealthy are close to being in control of the international economy. That’s an “oligarchy,” (power held by a few), a “plutocracy” (power of wealth). That’s a description of how the vast majority of the world’s population is, to varying degrees, screwed, used, discarded or ignored by many of those at the top. That’s what Wall Street is happy with; what Citigroup calls the plutonomy, and anyone who doesn’t see the good of the plutocracy as good economics is just stupid. Or simply inconsequential.
You can check out the 2005 and 2006 Citigroup reports via Maximinlaw here and here. Reading it now, a few years after the releases, provides some more context for Occupy Wall Street, and the 2012 Two Corporate Parties’ version of democracy. From the second release, March 5, 2006, “Equity Strategy Revisiting Plutonomy: The Rich Getting Richer”: (all emphasis mine)
The latest Survey of Consumer Finances, for 2004, has been released by the Federal Reserve. It shows the rich continue to account for a disproportionately large share of income and wealth in the US economy : the richest 10% of Americans account for 43% of income, and 57% of net worth. … The rich are in great shape, financially. …
Asset booms, a rising profit share and favorable treatment by market-friendly governments have allowed the rich to prosper and become a greater share of the economy in the plutonomy countries.
Just a few more quotes, to be sure we have the peppy plutonomy pitch firmly in mind:
While the average consumer might not be feeling great, the important consumers – the richest 20%, who account, as we’ve shown, for 58% of income – are in good shape. …
What’s happening now, with Occupy Wall Street, with the October 2011 actions in DC, in cities and towns across the nation … these are challenges to the Two Party System, but more fundamentally yet, to the international “plutonomy.” Whether the challenge comes with the goal of making changes from within or without the system, the Democratic / Republican Duopoly remains the dominant means of control in our nation, having convinced many that challenges are futile. When the Challenged become annoyed enough to notice the Challengers, they have options in place, including: 1) ignore; 2) ridicule and/or condescendingly minimize and dismiss; 3) use the power of position, and the media, to misrepresent the activists; 4) apply pressure – by use of laws, codes, ordinances; by show of police force; by limiting internet access; 5) or maybe say you “understand,” but keep “doing something” vague, and possible only after the next election.
One of the most interesting things about Occupy Wall Street is watching how people – across the political spectrum – respond, both in terms of the amount of attention, and in terms of the interpretations applied. Watching the contortions to force OWS into a framework with which legacy parties and legacy media are comfortable is revealing, if unsurprising. Just as interesting is how people – Electeds, media and more – who only started paying attention two or three weeks into Occupy are now providing interpretations and critiques, including of the period when they weren’t paying attention.
I realize none of this is new information, in terms of the “plutonomy,” the economic system that exists with that top one to ten to twenty percent in mind. They’re the “important” people, the ones our two political parties exist to serve. Our assigned role is to vote for one or the other. It’s okay with those running the show if we question individual players, or level searing criticisms at one or both parties. Or at each other. It’s okay if we routinely flip the “majority.” All of that keeps us diverted. But they really, really don’t want us to question that Two Party System, and the “plutonomy” it serves.
One reason Occupy Wall Street is important is because people are finding ways to question by showing how our economic / political system is destroying lives. One place to hear what’s being said is an OWS related site, “We Are The 99 Percent”:
We are getting kicked out of our homes. … forced to choose between groceries and rent. … denied quality medical care. … suffering from environmental pollution. … working long hours for little pay and no rights, if we’re working at all. …
From Political Ticker Dems attempt to harness anger at Wall Street.
From Common Dreams, How #OccupyWallStreet Is Evolving and Gaining Power.
And for a new action, which began in DC yesterday, October 6, visit October 2011:
October 2011 is the 10th anniversary of the invasion of Afghanistan and the beginning of the 2012 federal austerity budget. …
We call on people … who seek peace, economic justice, human rights and a healthy environment … to join together in Washington, D.C., beginning on Oct. 6, 2011, in nonviolent resistance similar to the Arab Spring and the Midwest awakening. …
We face ongoing wars and massive socio-economic and environmental destruction perpetrated by a corporate empire which is oppressing, occupying and exploiting the world. …
It’s unlikely to be a quick and dramatic success, but choices beyond the two options we’re suppose to accept are being created.
( Photo via ThinkProgress )